"So, where exactly are you off to, Chin Boy?' Clara asked from her seat by the TARDIS console, not glancing away from her magazine.
The Doctor twirled around the console, checking his reflection giddily in a mirror. "Romancing the missus. Remind me, have you met River yet?"
"Mrs. Doctor? Nope," Clara said with a bit of a pout. "I do wish you'd told me you were a married man before I made all those 'snog box' comments. I try to stick to my morals…"
The Doctor remembered Clara during Christmas, planting a kiss on him before he'd managed to blurt out that he was married and feeling guilty about enjoying it (slightly). But Clara didn't remember it. "I'd love for her to meet you, but maybe you should…I dunno…make yourself a bit scarce?
Clara raised an eyebrow. "She's the jealous type?"
"You could say that. Maybe 'possessive' is a better term," the Doctor mused. He pulled a few levers and landed the TARDIS. "Here—you have the day off. Run out and get us chips. I'll be back in five minutes."
"You always say that," Clara groaned, reluctantly leaving the TARDIS. "How long will your date take?"
"I'm picking her up and taking her on our ninth honeymoon," he smiled to himself. "Knowing River, I'd say about two weeks. But I also happen to be the owner of a time machine—so I'll be back in five minutes."
She rolled her eyes. "Have fun, you madman. Five minutes?"
Clara exited the TARDIS and left the jittery Doctor alone. He hadn't seen River since the Angels, and he was a bit nervous for her to hear about Clara, even though she'd urged him to find another companion. Then again, she might just make a fuss over the new interior of the TARDIS as opposed to blowing up about his new, flirty companion.
He straightened his bowtie and pulled all the right knobs to lock onto River's location. He was so excited to see her again. Each time they met, he was more and more in love, and he truly felt like a madman in love. Things in his life were finally finding order again.
After typing in her coordinates, however, something happened.
The TARDIS screeched, a high keen that ripped through the Doctor's ears. He tried to pinpoint the source of the noise, but smoke began to billow out of the console. Spluttering and choking, he backed away and searched for the main screen, which buzzed and crackled with confusion.
"Come on, old girl," he said, trying not to panic. The TARDIS had been broken dozens of times. This was nothing unusual…and yet, as the lights in the TARDIS dimmed, the Doctor couldn't help but worry that something was truly wrong.
The screen came to life with the simple words: RIVER SONG NOT FOUND.
He shook his head, not believing it. River Song was somewhere in the universe. The time machine should get a lock on her, wherever she was.
He tried typing in her coordinates again, using the biological information he had on her to force the TARDIS to track her DNA stamp and take him to her, but the TARDIS continued to wail. The screen repeated it's earlier message. RIVER SONG NOT FOUND.
He shook his head, willing himself to keep it together. There was a reason. There was an explanation. He took the screeching TARDIS to Stormcage, to each spot they'd ever been on honeymoons, everywhere she could possibly be, and they all were empty. Devoid of River Song, the universe continued to be, to no one's panic but the Doctor's.
His head was spinning, breaking open with a thousand unspeakable fears, because one simple truth hung in the air: River Song was gone.
Not dead, incinerated by her sacrifice in the Library. Not missing, with the chance of being found. She was, quite literally, gone—vanished off the plane of the universe. Nowhere to be found. The TARDIS could find anyone, anywhere in time and space, but when he piloted his way to her, the console screeched and sparked on fire. His computer had no trace of her past the last time she'd been with him. Someone or something had plucked River out of this existence, and since she died in the Library, they hadn't done away with her. She was alive, somehow, but not in his universe.
Where is she?
A million possibilities ran through his mind, each one too grotesque and impossible to fit his logic, and he slammed his fist on the console. "WHERE IS SHE?!" he screamed, a bloody rage in his eyes.
River was gone. River was taken. Something horrible could be happening to River, right this moment. Just because she wasn't dead didn't mean innumerable worse conditions could fall upon her. Memory wipes. Torture. Incarceration. Pain and suffering, and abandonment, because wherever she was, however hopeless she felt, she was a stubborn woman—and she would hold out until her last breath for the Doctor to rescue her.
Again he slammed his fist on the console, which flared red momentarily to warn him against taking out his anger on its control board. He'd seldom been this angry.
Part of this was his fault. If he'd picked her up earlier, if he'd checked on her, if he'd answered his bloody phone, he could have kept River safe.
As if by magic, the entire control room of the TARDIS went dark—and the screen blinked an eerie shade of blue. The Doctor slowly looked up, dreading what he'd see but knowing that whoever was causing the screen to flicker deserved his very best glare, and gazed at the screen.
"Kovarian," he hissed. "What a surprise. Can't say it's a pleasant one."
The evil woman gave him a hideous smirk, toadlike in its superiority. "You never thought you'd see me again, did you?"
"Indeed I didn't. Pretty sure the Apollo 11 message did the trick on your lot. Or the paradoxical universe exploding. Or that you'd just forgotten me, like you were supposed to. Isn't that what you're best at?" he said quietly. "Forgetting?"
"One little Time Lord is bound to make a lot of noise, erased from records or not," she smiled. "And you tried so hard to keep quiet. And you're right—the Silence are nearly extinct as a result of your murderous little prank. Very few survived."
"Can't imagine they're giving you much of a salary if they're depending on you for survival."
"Oh, I'm not employed by the Silence anymore—not really," she said, shrugging off his accusation. "No, I work for a much larger network now."
"Let me guess—all different species, all over the universe, and they all want me dead."
"Not quite," she cackled. "No, I don't work for the Silence. I'm part of one of the biggest webs in the universe now. And my employer doesn't want you dead. He just wants to own you." She shook her head. "You've made the most common mistake in the universe. One you didn't even know you'd made, yet one that made it so easy for us to find you once more."
"Oh, ho, ho, Doctor," she laughed maliciously, spitting at the screen. "What is it that you say? 'Rule 1: The Doctor lies.' Well, I think you need to revise that one. Let's make Rule 1 something much more prudent, shall we?"
"What could be more prudent," he groaned, "than not trusting me?"
"How about you ask your precious little wife?"
With that, another screen flickered to life—and there she was. River Song. Alive. Breathing. Hair out of place, eyes trying to hide terror. Not tied up or cuffed, just standing, holding herself, in a nondescript cell.
Looking for him. Not finding him.
"River!" he shouted, unable to help himself.
"Turn on the intercom," Kovarian chuckled to a lackey offscreen. "Let her hear her sweet, sweet Doctor."
The Doctor rushed over to her screen, drinking in the sight of her. "River, it's me! Honey, it's me! Can you hear me?"
She blinked, not quite believing it. "Second honeymoon?"
Second honeymoon was their code for a situation like this, to verify their true identities. No one else had been anywhere near them when they'd gone on their second honeymoon, one of many, so they'd come up with several emergency phrases to use there.
"Vesta 9," he said, immediately gaining her trust with the right answer. "Remember the green stars? You told me they looked like candy you'd had when you were a kid."
"Then we went looking through the TARDIS for chocolate—Doctor!" she cried, running toward the voice in her room. "It's really you!"
"Can you see me?"
"N-no, it's just your voice. Where are you? Are you safe?"
"I'm fine, don't you worry about me." He stared straight at her terrified face, trying to keep it together for him, and said firmly, "Don't you worry about a thing. Stay where you are. Keep as safe as you can. I'm going to find you and I'm going to bring you home."
"Doctor, please—you can't!" Her blue eyes, slightly bloodshot from being awake too long, struggled to find focus. "Please, my love, whatever you do—you know this is a trap. Please, they can't do anything to me if they don't have you, just stay away."
"I have to find you!" he choked, not tearing his eyes away even to give Kovarian the fury she deserved. "Who has you? What do they want?"
River bit her lip and tried to think. "I don't know. I woke up here. I haven't seen anyone or anything."
She looked lost, she looked scared, she looked dizzy. River Song, his wife, was never was scared, not of a single thing in this world. Not even her own death scared her. The Doctor looked at her swaying frame on the screen, wanting desperately to be with her and smooth down the flyaways in her hair and hold her. She was in trouble.
He tried to talk softly, calmly, if only to settle her. "How are you feeling, honey?"
"They're not hurting you?"
"Are they looking after you?"
He tried to keep it light, knowing Kovarian was listening and could cut him off at any moment. "Do you miss me?"
She cracked a weak smile. "Very much."
"What, no flirty banter, Professor Song?" he grinned. "You must really be scared."
"Now's not the time flirt."
"Every time is a good time to flirt."
"Not this one."
His smile faded. "Do you want to know if I miss you?"
"I do." He gritted his teeth. "When I couldn't find you, I nearly went mad."
"Oh, like you weren't mad already."
"There's the Song I know."
Kovarian clucked her teeth impatiently. "Is this fun for you, Doctor? Talking to your wife through a screen?"
He straightened up and stared at her directly in the eyes. "Let her go. You don't need her. You want me, don't you? How will kidnapping her bring me to you, after you just let her tell me not to come after her?"
"Oh, Doctor, I told you, you should have changed Rule 1." Her smiled widened, sickening the Doctor until he could have punched the screen. "We don't want Professor Song—in fact, she proved a disappointment to all of us, and she will be dealt with accordingly for that, but for now, she has a gift that we'd much rather use first."
"And what is that?"
River worked her voice up to a yell, looking fiercely at the ceiling of her cell to broadcast to Kovarian. "Don't you dare!" she screamed. "Don't you dare do this to him!"
"Doctor, did your lovely wife happen to mention—"
"NO! No, please! I'll do anything!"
"—that she was pregnant?"
A sick, strained silence fell in the darkened TARDIS. He could do nothing but stare in horror and disbelief at the cackling Kovarian, as River crumpled into tears on the other screen.
Kovarian licked her lips. "Rule 1, revised: Never fall in love, Doctor. It never ends well for you…or for her."